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Artwork from the graphic novel

Graphic novel and curriculum address Oklahoma’s past

Monday, August 15, 2022

Media Contact: Bonnie Cain-Wood | Manager, Communication Services of University Libraries | 405-744-7331 | bonnie.cain@okstate.edu

"Chilocco Indian School: A Generational Story," a graphic novel written by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder with art and graphic direction from Johnnie Diacon and Jerry Bennett, is now available for free download. The novel was produced by the OSU Library’s Oklahoma Oral History Research Program in collaboration with the Chilocco National Alumni Association.

The graphic novel is a part of a larger history project related to the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, which was the largest intertribal Native boarding school in the U.S. The project includes oral history interviews with alumni, photos, a documentary and educator resources. Additional funding from the Tom J. and Edna M. Carson Foundation allowed the project to expand its storytelling efforts.

"Part of the project goal is to make these primary sources about this school and the history of Indian education in the U.S. more accessible in the classroom," said Sarah Milligan, head of OOHRP. "For us, the goal was to create an easy gateway into this complicated part of Oklahoma history so it would be a little bit easier to bring into a classroom."

The novel focuses on Jaya Thomas, a young, Native teen who follows her grandmother and aunt to a family reunion where she learns about Chilocco and its near century-long history through the stories her aunt and grandmother share. As she listens to her family recount their experiences of both Chilocco and what it was like to be Native American during that time, Jaya also gains a better understanding of her family history and their shared mannerisms.

"Having relatives who had attended the various boarding schools in Indian Country and having been a student in a couple myself, I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to use my artistic gift to help relate these stories," Johnnie Diacon said. "This seems especially important in light of recent developments in the news concerning the often untold and unknown dark history of these schools." 

"Chilocco Indian School: A Generational Story," can be downloaded for free at chilocco.library.okstate.edu/graphic-novel. There are also project-based learning modules for the classroom.

"I hope that our Native people, Chilocco alumni and non-Native readers of the graphic novel will appreciate, enjoy and learn from the small contribution that the graphic novel, hopefully, will make in bringing the larger history of boarding schools in Indian Country to a greater audience," Diacon said. "Perhaps it will be the seed that a mighty oak grows from and those who read it will be moved to learn more."

Funding for this program is provided in part by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of OH or NEH.

About Oklahoma Humanities

Oklahoma Humanities (OH) is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans learn about the human experience, understand new perspectives, and participate knowledgeably in civic life through humanities disciplines such as history, literature, film studies, art criticism, and philosophy. As the state partner for the National Endowment for the Humanities, OH provides a free educational magazine, Smithsonian Institution exhibits, reading and discussion groups, monthly podcasts, and other cultural opportunities for Oklahomans of all ages. OH engages people in their own communities, stimulating discussion and helping them explore the wider world of human experience.

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